For me, mythology has always been a way to define myself and what I believe in. I always have comments when I read existing myths—”one eye between the three of them? …Really?” “Ah, so that’s where those random woodland noises come from. I like that.” “How’s that?” “You know, that actually makes sense in a way…”—and it’s always interesting to take one more step back and ask myself why I think something the ancients took to be more or less true sounds so silly or bizarre to me. Sometimes it’s fairly obvious that I’m just used to a much more objective culture than theirs, but other times, it isn’t so clear, and I’ve found that I learn a significant amount about myself when I compare the myths I read about to my own ideas of what makes a good fantasy or otherwise floats my boat, so to speak. I’ve discovered that I prefer stories with a moral or some sort of allegory, and that my stories lately have all had something to say about the general state of the world—you might even say that’s what my life story has been about in recent chapters.
Through this “Mythopoeia of Saralya”, I hope to find out even more about where I stand on what should make a myth and a society, and maybe even why. Enjoy, and do have fun trying to pronounce all the Asian names.
Saralya, Satyata, and the deva
“Brainstorm your hierarchy of gods/goddesses/creatures. Are they many? One? How do they interact with each other/humans? What world do they rule? Where do they live?”
Welcome to the domain of Saralya. It’s a limitless realm of shadow and amorphous shapes, sometimes forming into mountains and lakes, sometimes curdling into unstable ocean-meadows, and sometimes just flowing as free, unrestricted shadow-stuff with seemingly no substance. Saralya is the universe, the billowing cloak that contains the skies, the stars, and all known reality, all within a sort of small, fuzzy bubble somewhere in its midst. Even some abstractions that we may not think of as real are a part of it.
The outer part of Saralya (Sah–REL–yah) is known as Satyata (SAHT–yuh–tah), and is generally a calm, serene place. It’s basically the divine realm, home to many interesting beings and phenomena that don’t appear within the smaller “mortal” world within it. However, the inhabitants of Satyata—known as deva, feminine form devi—aren’t exactly gods in the traditional sense since they’ve been known to die of serious injuries or high amounts of stress even though they seem to be extremely hardy and long-lived. Also, most of them usually resemble some sort of animal from the inner world, but since they can also assume human form, it’s not really clear what their true form is. Their reason for existence is to protect reality and keep it from falling apart, and each “race” has a specific ability to aid it in doing that.
The two most influential deva are Simurga and Vasuki, who also happen to be the oldest and probably the only truly immortal ones. Simurga is the queen of everything fiery, radiant, or flying, and the mother of the firebirds (a bit of an umbrella term, covering both birds that actually blaze and birds that are just associated with fire or warmth), and Vasuki is the king of everything subdued, moist, damp, or terrestrial and the father of the naga (another broad term since some look very much like Chinese dragons, but others look more like cobras or other snakes). Each race of deva has a leader of its own, but these two and their messengers are the ones that are supposed to oversee all of them and maintain order within Satyata. The only problem with this is that the firebirds and naga are perpetually hating each other and trying to find ways that the other group might be incriminated and finally driven out of Satyata into nothingness; the naga eat the firebirds’ eggs, and the firebirds eat the naga’s hatchlings, and because of this the two can never risk a direct meeting.
Satyata does have a few distinct regions, although their boundaries frequently blur because of its variable nature, such that parts of some may even end up as little islands in others by accident (which is one of the many things that can lead to terrible clashes between the firebirds and naga). Regions and biomes also move around constantly, such that there’s really no concept of geography.
Here’s a secret usually kept from most of the Satyatan creatures and the entire inner world: Saralya is actually a living being—also known as the Mahadevi, or greatest devi, to a select few—and the entire universe is contained within her dream. A few times in previous universes, she’s shown her form within the dream to help out in the worst circumstances, but she reserves it as an extremely drastic measure only to be taken if reality itself is threatened. Though she supervises and commands all the creatures of Satyata, most don’t even have any idea the orders are from her and simply regard them as their own ideas, things they were destined to do, or the like. Within Saralya, everyone’s first priority seems to be making sure that nobody knows there’s a god.
The beginning of Saralya
“Today I want you to create a creation story for your mythology. Think about how things came to be and create an entire story to explain them. Right now we are just concerned with the creation of the world itself and perhaps man.“
One dismal moment in the shadowy black of nothingness, before words like day or night had a meaning, there was a great being named Saralya with a form both beastly and at the same time not quite like any earthly animal you might think of; both fierce and gentle, both beautiful and nondescript. Saralya’s existence was confirmed by the act of dreaming—the fact that Saralya was there in her dream to acknowledge its occurrence marked thought, and when she acknowledged that she thought thought, it was as good an indication she now existed as any. Cogito, ergo sum.
Saralya’s dream was at first extremely vague, not much better than the featureless blackness she first came out of. But then, when she took a step forward, bringing the first motion, it turned out that her body had to be distinct from the surrounding void, and borders between objects came into being. For Saralya to be standing on it, there had to be some sort of terrain, and soon it was clear that air surrounded her form since she had to be more solid than most of her surroundings to move through them. As she surveyed the area, the necessity of light was revealed, and sure enough, the air and ground turned out to have different shades. Thus Satyata, the outer realm, came into existence.
Next, deciding that everything being homogeneous was boring, Saralya molded mountains, valleys, and lake basins into Satyata with her footsteps, bringing in textures and fluctuations. With fluctuations in texture soon came fluctuations in light and density, and subtle color distinctions appeared along with distinctions between water and land, dirt and air, rock and leaf. Satyata’s landscapes gradually became beautiful and varied as they spread, and eventually began to take on their current forms.
Of course, Saralya knew that all this fluctuation left something to be desired—although each area had distinct traits, the arrangement and size of them was always changing. Sometimes a pocket of desert would show up in the middle of a rainforest, and sometimes a pocket of ocean would turn up in the middle of a desert, as there was nothing to prevent that from happening; as long as all the original pieces were still around, regardless of where they were or what they looked like, all was good. But that wasn’t the kind of world Saralya wanted; she didn’t like the inconstancy of it.
So, Saralya struck a mountain with force enough to create a flame, and let it burn until a feathered chick rose out of it, which she named Simurga. And once Simurga had been created, the warmth of the fire still burning on her back rose into the sky, and caused it to rain, threatening to put out her fiery plumage. As the rain fell, a puddle gradually formed in the valley below the mountain, and where one of Simurga’s feathers fell into it, it sizzled away into ash, the water around it chilling to a near-freezing cold from another newly-introduced distinction. Out of the feather, as it froze into a small, black chunk of ice, and out of the newly-created pond at the base of the mountain, rose a serpent-like creature with many heads named Vasuki.
From then on, fire and rain, bird and snake, shining and shadowy became separate. As soon as Vasuki saw Simurga, the one who had polluted his pond with warmth, and she saw him, created from the cold rain that had dampened her flames, the two instantly became rivals; a new fire rose from Simurga’s back, hotter even than the flame that had created her, and Vasuki’s skin became cold as night, beads of ice and rivulets of frigid water appearing on it. Saralya, however, was not interested in their differences.
Quoth Saralya: “Protect this world and bring it stability.”
Those were the first words Saralya spoke, and the only ones she’d ever speak for a long, long time; with that, she slipped out of her dream, and all her future orders were only subliminal. Knowing only that it was their duty and nothing else, Simurga and Vasuki conjured up mates through another ember and another ice crystal, and begat two great families—the naga and the firebirds—and two of their children eventually created a new “inner universe” inside a shared dream in which everything was constant and landscapes could drift only through millenia. Although it’s had to be recreated a few times due to a couple of mishaps where reality got disrupted (and may have to be restarted another few times in the future, for that matter), that’s where our current world and reality began.
The Full Deva Roster
“Today I want you to work on your lesser gods/goddesses/creatures. If your mythology doesn’t have other gods, think in terms of other characters in the story of your gods. Describe how they look, sound, interact, etc.“
After Saralya’s creation of Vasuki and Simurga, the others weren’t far after; after all, Vasuki and Simurga could hardly control the entire realm of Satyata and the inner world all by themselves, and needed to divide up the labor a bit. Thus, many other lines and races emerged from them, and in time, the total number of deva became astoundingly great—often quoted as “the number you guess there are, multiplied by 108,000”. Now, everything was good: Vasuki and Simurga could oversee all of Satyata, the leader of each race could oversee his kin and govern a broad field in the inner world, and each of the countless “ordinary” deva could take charge of all the lesser details of it he might miss, inhabit particular locations or objects, and so forth. Here are the main forms and abilities of each race, along with the first one chosen to lead it (just as the world has had to be restarted a few times, deva have also had to be replaced, but to keep things simple, this will only name the first leader of each line).
Yukibakuhou and the Firebird Line
At first, Simurga and Vasuki were totally at odds in terms of how to control the fluctuating, inconstant realm of Satyata and make it stable. Even after they had mates and children to aid them, it still seemed like a near-impossible task, and more often than not, their endless fighting prevented ideas that wouldn’t have worked anyway from even being tried at all and nothing got done. Satyata just continued to shift and flow no matter what they did, and they were beginning to get a terrible feeling that they might be destroyed by some higher power if they didn’t heed the single, simple command they’d been given.
“Foolish firebird,” Vasuki spat through multiple mouths, baring multiple sets of fangs. “If you weren’t always interfering with my plans, we would have had stability in Satyata within the first four days! Perhaps I will swallow you, and then maybe it can be done.”
“Your plans are always too brutal and destructive,” Simurga criticized. “If I had let you carry half of them out, all of Satyata would be in ruins.”
“Please cease your fighting,” a child of Simurga calmly requested, stepping between them. “I know how to solve your problem. Just step aside and leave it to me.”
The firebird that stepped between the two immortal deva was a tall, magnificent egret-like creature with long legs, a long, curving neck, flamboyant markings, and a great, billowing tail, later to be known as Yukibakuhou. Under Yukibakuhou’s plan, he and one representative he chose from the naga both contributed to creating the inner world within Satyata, with the firebird creating the “lighter” parts of the dream and the naga creating the “darker” parts. That way, rather than being at odds, the two sides both helped to keep the new world in balance, and indeed, the new inner world turned out to be much more stable than Satyata. Vasuki and the naga were disgusted at the idea that a firebird could have devised such a wonderful plan, but in the end, they could think of nothing better, and decided to let it go.
Simurga, on the other hand, was quite pleased with the way things had turned out, and appointed Yukibakuhou prince of the firebirds. He got his name, meaning “Firebird of Virtue Incarnate”, from protecting the pure of heart within the inner world with his special starlight weapon called the Taraprakasha and always ensuring that there was hope and warmth somewhere in it. In attitude, the other firebirds are somewhat similar to him, but few have as powerful or remarkable an ability, or as strong a character, for that matter.
Takikagorou and the Naga Line
However, every story has two sides. Takikagorou, the waterfall-dragon Simurga’s son chose to create the dark half of the inner world, was rather unfortunate because even though it would end up being half his creation, few in it would ever give him anywhere near the kind of recognition he deserved. While Yukibakuhou would get all sorts of praise for making the world bright and hospitable, nobody wanted to see it made dark and hostile, and he’d always end up getting overlooked, or in a few cases even pleaded to simply to stop being so awful to everyone by creating terrible things like volcanoes, hurricanes, and tsunami. Eventually, his death would end up being one of the reasons for the inner world to be restarted.
Takikagorou, at a rare time when he wanted to help out a world that didn’t appreciate him, could make himself manifest in it and use water-related abilities like the control of rain to make up for some of the terrible phenomena he created. The rest of the naga, including the one that would succeed him, have similar abilities, though some may have others on top of those.
Reyenda and the Nag (Snake) Line
Pronounced “nahg”. The nag line branched off from the naga line partly because the more snake-like naga saw Takikagorou as a slight wimp and wanted didn’t want to associate with anything that looked or acted like him. Thus, deva whose beast forms looked more like Chinese dragons were confined to the naga line, and the more snake-like ones could freely call themselves either naga or nag, as long as the nag line remained pure.
Reyenda had the appearance of a soot-black cobra, and had two abilities: the utter lack of a feeling heart, which made him immune to emotional appeals or seduction, and the ability to suddenly make things treacherous (especially bodies of water). The rest of the nag line has a similar lack of emotion, though maybe not as extreme, and similar abilities to either lay traps or control water.
Izunagi and the Eel Line
Izunagi looked somewhat like a gigantic, dark eel with cyan markings, and his signature ability was the control of electricity. His descendants are the main rulers of ponds and lakes, and can whip up terrible thunderstorms if the occasion calls for it. Though they can’t move effectively out of water, their ability can be frighteningly powerful, and combined with their somewhat touchy tempers, it commands a lot of respect throughout Satyata.
Shumari and the Fox Line
Shumari had an appearance like a beige fox with a smooth, somewhat featureless skin, and the ability to hide herself in reflections and reappear seemingly out of nowhere; she was known for being silent, lone, and selfless. Her descendants mainly frequent Satyatan forests, savannahs, and tundras, and have similar abilities to disappear into shadows, reflections, textures, and so forth that allow them to stay in the inner world much longer without being detected.
Hanabana and the Wildcat Line
Hanabana was similar in appearance to a caracal cat, with a long, sleek body and a few tufts at the base of each paw that nicely reflected her ability to control wind. She and her descendents are frequently reputed as being majestic or noble, and like to dash through valleys, plains, and mountaintops, among other open areas. Although most of them can’t actually fly, their fluid, graceful gait does almost make it almost look that way.
Keroro and the Lunar Line
Keroro, shaped somewhat like a three-legged toad, was the first of several ‘moon deva’ with the ability of being able to move undetectably under moonlight and the added bonus of being able to make it night at any time of day. Though somewhat cynical, he’s as willing to help out as any other deva, if not more, if there’s something in it for him (a somewhat common attitude among this line). The moon deva are not a line related by blood so much as by ability, so there haven’t been very many of them.
Kogoeru and the Weasel Line
Kogoeru had a beast form somewhat like a skunk, but rather than spraying foul odors, he dispersed freezing winds. Others of his line have similar abilities to control cold winds, snow, etc.
Eganayo and the Lotus Line
Eganayo was another sort of canine-looking deva with stripes along her rump, and always seemed to have a lotus flower about her ear (in both human manifestation and beast form; it never seemed to fall off). She was cool but compassionate, and her ability simply revolved around making flowers bloom—something that could be much more useful at times than it might sound like. She was largely focused on aquatic flowers and particularly the lotus, but others of her line focused on other flowers. Their shapes and sizes vary somewhat.
Annoroq and the Magma Line
Annoroq was the first and last deva to have an appearance remotely similar to a Western dragon. His beast form was somewhat between a flying lizard and a rocky seahorse, with periodic fissures in the skin where magma came out, and he had the ability to make heat come up from the earth, like in hydrothermal vents or volcanoes; the story goes that the arctic is cold much of the year because that’s where he was killed. Other deva that came after him carried on his heat abilities, but their appearances were quite different from his, and really rather inconsistent. They’re much scarcer than deva from other lines, too.
Angalajua and the Sun-Cow Line
Angalajua was similar to an oryx, and possessed a strange radiance uncommon even among deva, enough that if he appeared undisguised in the inner world at the top of a mountain, people might mistake him for the sun and get confused as to what time it was. Unsurprisingly, his ability was to control solar energy and its distribution, and he could also wield a sort of “solar wind” weapon known as the Suryavata when necessary. Like Annoroq, though, his kind largely fell from prominence after he faded away, even though there were plenty of them left.
Hanabana and the wild rose
“Today, tell a story about an Alaskan flower.”
At one point, there was a beautiful devi named Hanabana with an appearance like a caracal cat, only closer to the color of a plum blossom and speckled with markings like its stamens in a couple of places. She had a fluid, graceful step light enough to not even leave a mark in soft clay, and whenever she walked, a breeze followed behind her and stirred up fallen flower petals, carrying them through the air. Hanabana was the patron devi of Samira, a peaceful village located in the north where the wind was always slightly cold, but where the beautiful wildflowers always brought life and hope and no one ever felt isolated.
In Samira, there was a nice young woman named Patala, who was rather quiet and rarely said much of anything. Much of the time, she simply read, tended to the cow, made flower arrangements, or did other mundane, innocuous things that nobody really ever noticed. Her family were probably the only ones who even knew her name, and she didn’t really have any ambitions beyond a little maid work and some gardening. Whenever anyone scolded her, she simply nodded and resolved to do better, and whenever anyone tried to have conversations with her, she usually let the other person do most of the talking and only gave a periodic “yes” or two in response. She mostly just took things as they happened, much like the way she liked to watch petals drift in the wind.
The single distinctive thing that Patala went out of her way to do every year was walk to the outskirts of the village to see the fruit trees bloom—there were apples, pears, and plums, giving three chances every year to see the branches brimming with a wondrous mantle of pinkish-white. She was always pleased to see them, as their splendor always gave her the reminder that in the end, no one was ultimately any more significant than her in the greater scheme of things. Watching the petals fall, she was completely happy with the way things were.
But one day, a great blustering wind appeared among the falling petals, and Hanabana appeared in it.
Patala was appalled, never having seen anything so far out of the ordinary before, but the feline devi showed no intention to harm her, and instead seemed to have a look of concern.
“Child, you need to broaden your horizons one of these days.”
Confused, Patala asked the devi what she meant, and Hanabana explained (in the most tactful way possible, of course) that going through life without objecting to anything or uttering a single opinion would get her nowhere. That only confounded Patala more, as she couldn’t say why that was at all bad.
“You will understand some day, child,” Hanabana replied, “but suffice to say, it will get you much farther in this world to find a voice of your own.”
With that, Hanabana seemingly blew away in a gust of petals, and no matter where Patala looked, she couldn’t seem to find her. As Patala walked home, she thought the devi’s words over long and hard, and wondered if they were true. Would it really suit her better to be adventurous? Would the unpredictability be worth it? It was a serious dilemma… well, maybe after she checked on the cow, watered the garden, and swept the floor, she might have some time to think it over further.
The next day, the rooster crowed at an unusually early time, and Patala immediately rushed out to make sure he was all right. The rooster turned out to be fine, but while she was outside, she discovered that the village was being raided by a group of bearded ruffians. Again, she froze on the spot, unable to think of any good reaction to something so unusual and dramatic, but then she thought of the devi’s words again and cautiously weaved her way around so she could get close to them without their noticing. Like Hanabana herself, she powerfully leapt out and pounced, deftly knocking two of them over with her broom. The others first gaped in shock, then laughed when they saw who had done it.
Patala tried to prepare herself for another strike, but stopped again when she saw their eyes piercing into her. She could tell what she’d done was extremely foolish now, and knew that there was no way she’d get out of it alive; either they’d kill her here, or they’d doubtlessly catch her when she tried to run. As one of them began to step toward her with an axe, she futilely raised her broom to parry, but then a miraculous thing happened—a great row of rosebushes sprouted up around the villains’ feet, and they suddenly found their shins punctured all over with thorns. Startled, they tried to extricate themselves, but no matter how hard they tried, they only seemed to tear themselves up worse. Finally, their bodies turned to petals, and a strong gust carried their spirits far off into the distance.
“Well done, child,” Hanabana praised as she re-appeared, “you have found your voice.”
And thus, Patala broadened her horizons. Afterward, she started looking for new, interesting pursuits, and vowed never to stay in one place once she was old enough to leave the village. Eventually, upon her death, she was transformed into a rose lighter than any other to reflect her selflessness and rebirth of character, and it still grows in all sorts of remote, unexpected places, in all its brazen, prickly glory.
The tragedy of Izumi and Shumari
Today you will be creating a love story. It should include at least one of your gods/creatures etc. although they do not need to be one of the lovers. This should be a complete story; it can be bloody, gory, and manly, or it can be sickeningly sweet. It’s your world; tell it how you want it.”
Shumari was a peculiar sort of fox-shaped devi with a surface so smooth and bright that it reflected light almost as well as mirror—one somewhere halfway between the qualities of steel and quartz. She just mysteriously rose up out of one of the less well-defined regions of Satyata one day, formed as if shaped from clay, and ever since her spontaneous appearance, she scarcely said a word.
Shumari had chosen as her spokesperson and companion a calm, gentle woman named Izumi. Though relatively young, she was well old enough to give off an air of maturity and wisdom, and to be someone almost everyone else respected; even wild birds would happily land on her outstretched hand sometimes and simply admire her for a few seconds rather than fluttering away in disappointment when she brought them no seeds. At times a few gentlemen respectfully made proposals to her, but she never gave anyone more than a polite acknowledgement that she’d think it over; there was only one who had ever interested her, by the name of Kageyasu.
Kageyasu was part of the resistance force at the time the inner world was trying to eliminate the terrifying illusion-maker Vibhrama. With the help of his own devi companion, Reyenda, Kageyasu was always on the move searching for clues as to the beast’s existence, and never stopped in the same place twice. Sleeping in forests and coves, he tirelessly continued on day after day, sometimes not even knowing why he bothered. But somehow, he always managed to keep going, aware that he was doing so not just for himself, but for the sake of humanity.
Izumi, however, feared for his safety, and secretly wished for his retirement as part of the Resistance. She had always admired his selfless and single-minded determination to the task, but at the same time, she was well aware that the majority of the resistance’s members who had achieved anything of note had almost always ended up dying at a young age, and she didn’t want that for Kageyasu. Even if she had to travel to the ends of the earth and persuade him herself to give up his resistance duties, she had convinced herself that one day, she would somehow bring Kageyasu home with her and maybe even make him her husband. Of course, she knew it was a ridiculous thing to be daydreaming about, so she’d never told anyone about it—but one day, her concern for Kageyasu grew too great, and she decided it was time to slip out of town in the dead of night to go looking for him.
At Izumi’s request, Shumari appeared and quickly compressed herself into the subtle glint of moonlight on the surface of a nearby river and slid along the surface, completely invisible except for the way she caused the light to advance at unimaginable speeds. Izumi waited for the longest time at the bank for the devi to return, but Shumari did not seem to have found anything when she returned. At each body of water Izumi visited, she repeated the process, but she went many days without success before Shumari finally showed her a sign. As quickly as she could, Izumi started off to go searching for a suitable rowboat to borrow in order to follow in the direction Shumari had thrust out her neck, but Shumari promptly moved to the coast and bowed to discourage her. Izumi instantly understood, and climbed on. Though unable to compress herself in this state, Shumari still moved remarkably fast across the water’s surface, and Izumi knew Kageyasu could not be far away.
Kageyasu, however, had no idea that he was about to be ambushed by a lovely young lady, and was carefully checking the area around one of the temples to a false deva Vibhrama had created for traps. He knew there had to be one somewhere near, but was unclear on exactly where or what it was (due to Vibhrama’s great imagination in creating hazards), and was ready to encounter it at any moment.
Instead, Izumi suddenly appeared behind him without notice. Kageyasu pivoted around as if to face an enemy and immediately demanded of her who she was.
Izumi simply told him that she admired him and wished him to quit the Resistance, but Kageyasu was not feeling like it under any circumstance.
“I’m afraid that it’s not that simple… We of the Resistance have a duty and a commitment, and until it’s fulfilled, there’s no leaving it.”
Izumi paused in shock. But what about the danger of it, she reminded him. So many supporters of the Resistance had lost their lives, and surely he must have done enough already. And if he did quit, he would be guaranteed a wife.
But Kageyasu was still not willing to listen, and began to walk away.
“As I told you, we of the Resistance have a duty to eliminate the illusion-maker. Until the grass is pointed and the sky is smooth, we cannot simply turn back.”
Izumi sighed, knowing that it was hopeless. She was about to head all the way back to the coast, but then, without warning, she saw Kageyasu begin to step onto the trap, an area where a small flame was beginning to ignite. Immediately, she forced herself into Kageyasu and shoved him out of the way just before it rose far above her head and appeared to consume her; Kageyasu was speechless. However, Shumari had a similar reaction, and soon enough, her body was transformed into a puddle of water that reduced the flames to a few wisps of smoke. Kageyasu gazed down into the water a tad wistfully, thinking of his rescuer, but all he could see in the water was his own selfish face. And no matter what, whenever he looked into the surface of a body of water, it would always follow him—as we can all observe today.
Vibhrama, The Lizard of Illusion
Not long after the Mahadevi Saralya had set up her nearly ideal reality with all her deva working to preserve constancy and logic in it, forces were already working to tear it apart. After all, the only problem with Saralya’s being containing everything real and true was that everything else was condemned to nonexistence in the abstract region outside of it—Shunyata, the Void. For some reason, nothing that managed to obtain a free will there ever wanted to stay; any time that happened, it would immediately sneak into Saralya’s consciousness looking to get revenge on her exclusive, arbitrary system. One of these was a strange reptilian creature like a gigantic lizard—a monster later to be known as Vibhrama.
Vibhrama wasn’t the sort of thing that anyone would immediately think of as frightful; he was more the sort of creature that would simply lie around in the sun for most of the day on a bare summit, or maybe move into a more shadowed spot on excessively hot days. He wasn’t the kind of monster that did damage by seizing and killing, or luring in his victims with a mysterious voice, or anything like that, and that was how he managed to be so successful. For the longest time, nobody noticed in the least that anything was wrong, and he just sat there corrupting reality and accepting food and favors from his illusion-servants that he created exactly the same way he initially appeared out of the void himself. Eventually, Vibhrama even got cocky enough to sneak into the inner world and do his mischief there, and there he found things a lot more hospitable to him—while in Satyata, the changes he made to reality eventually got swept away by the natural shift of the landscapes, in the inner world, the changes simply remained, potentially for all eternity if no one consciously tried to get rid of them.
Vibhrama’s most distinctive features were the markings running down along his side and the webbing along his forelimbs and tail, both connected to his ability of illusion. His side symbol was one shaped somewhat like a horizontally-flipped letter gamma with a slight hook at the bottom, or a lowercase ‘g’ with only half the top circle. As far as those unaffected by him could dare to tell, it seemed to be a strange ideograph from a fantasy language that Vibhrama himself created when he came into being, and seemed to represent the concept of illusion—but it also seemed to have a deep, extremely complicated meaning beyond that so powerful that nobody could willingly decide to stop serving him within an instant of grasping it. Anyone he manipulated instantly became aware of the deeper meaning of the symbol on an intuitive level, and yet it was said that entire libraries could be filled with books about it without managing to capture the true essence of the meaning in its entirety. The deeper meaning was largely lost after his death due to its difficulty of description to those who didn’t yet understand it.
Vibhrama’s webbing contained yet more fantasy ideographs, which not even all of his adherents understood, and it was said that when he spread both his forelimbs and tail and put them together so that they formed a circle, he could cause an entire landscape to appear on them and expand in all directions, rendering himself invisible and replacing everything that had previously been there (either temporarily or permanently). It was fairly common for would-be heroes trying to finish him off to go rushing toward him without knowing about that, then stop confusedly after running past his previous location, completely lost in an entirely different landscape with no idea where he went or how to get back home.
It took all the power of Saralya, Satyata, the deva, the inner world, and then some to destroy Vibhrama, and even then, he wasn’t the last of his kind; nonexistent things that suddenly feign existence, dominate the inner world, and drive reality way out of whack have been the reason almost all the times the inner world has had to be restarted, really. It’s mostly a labor-saving measure on the part of the deva, who don’t want to clean up the wreckage after a climactic battle with nonsense.
Death, Nirvana, and the Afterlife
“Underworld/heaven/realm of the dead. I want a page description of your underworld/afterlife. What does it look like? Who goes there? Is there someone in charge? Who is it? Use as many details as you can.”
In Saralya, there are a few different things that can happen after the death of someone in the inner world: reincarnation, admission into Satyata, and release to Shunyata. The first is typical, and hopefully leads to the second given enough time; the third is extremely rare.
Every time something in either Satyata or the inner world dies, it gets recycled somehow into a new existence. A man, depending on his virtues and the worth of his actions, might be reincarnated as a more stately man or some noble animal like a kite or leopard, or alternatively, might find himself in the form of something more lowly like a dung beetle or moss; especially worthy animals, special decisions by the deva, or accidents of chance may cause other life forms to become human. Eventually, after climbing through enough levels in its various existences, a spirit can potentially assimilate into the shifting landscapes of Satyata, influencing their features in specific ways and at the same time being part of all of them at once. At that point it reaches nirvana—a timeless, peaceful state of more or less total harmony, and although things like identity and individual consciousness aren’t really part of it, it brims with a sort of collective emotion and knowledge, and in some indescribable way it’s better than any mortal existence. At any given moment, solitary souls might manifest as stark cliff faces, bold ones might appear as brilliant flowers, and dark, mysterious ones might show themselves as caverns, for instance. Also, given a lot more time, souls that form strong, recurring characteristics can be reincarnated as deva and have that existence for a while, after which they return to the Satyatan landscapes again. So, everyone and everything has a small prospect of becoming divine in the end, possibly even multiple times, if all goes right.
The alternative is banishment to nonexistence in Shunyata, the Void. Shunyata is somewhat like nirvana in Satyata except without the feeling of union and harmony, or any feeling at all; if anything, there’s a distinct feeling of bleakness, and nothing else. Whereas Satyata is boundlessly vast with an unimaginably great variety of textures, features, and phenomena, Shunyata has none of those things, nor even any dimensions or shape, and contains absolutely nothing within all of the area it doesn’t possess. Only by some paradoxical, abstract way are all the things trapped within it locked there for eternity, unable to escape since they don’t possess the free will that come along with form and existence, and even if they do manage to make themselves exist in Satyata by some sort of fluke, it’s expected the deva will find them and send them back before long. Banishment to Shunyata is not something the deva take lightly—since they have to completely obliterate both the body and soul of the offending party in the process, they almost never use it unless they’re sending back something that came from the Void to begin with (partly because most of the deva are too merciful to ever do something that drastic, even if it is deserved). In extreme cases, though, it might be an appropriate fate for a deva gone bad, or supporters of creatures like Vibhrama if there’s a chance that even a trace of them might endanger reality.
The Struggle Against Vibhrama
“A hero’s tale. This should be a minimum of one typed page. Tell a story about a mythological hero that includes most of the heroic traits we’ve discussed. Noble/unusual birth, special weapon, quest, apotheosis, daddy reconcilliation, etc.“
To say the battle against Vibhrama was a tough one would be an understatement. It wasn’t simply a long battle, or a difficult one, but one that defined its era. One with far-reaching, heart-rending consequences which no one spoke of for the longest time after the era he tortured and wrenched finally came to a close at the mercy of the deva. It was a battle that not even the deva want to remember, but that not even the deva can forget. And one that will linger in the remote cracks of Saralya’s consciousness for an eternity, forever threatening to turn her dream into an insufferable nightmare.
It began with five main heroes, each seeming to embody a particular colour. Whether because of losses in translation or simply the fact that they had none, their true names are no longer known, but whatever the case, they are simply known today as Scarlet, Aureate, Caeruleus, and Kageyasu, along with one more who seems to be named in full much more often than the others—Verdancio d’Beryl.
Verdancio was indeed different from the other four. He had a strange air of intuitive, natural confidence the others somehow seemed to lack, and could display a warm, friendly smile to anyone he met, including total strangers. Somehow he always seemed to be in control of his situation, even when he had no idea what to do, and it seemed to everyone who knew him that he never hesitated or said anything he regretted later. Everything he did always seemed to turn out exactly as he intended, and even if he’d clearly made a mistake, his remarkable control over his actions enabled him not only to reverse it but to leave the other party wondering if it was even a mistake at all. Although he had pride in himself, he never made a boast—at least never a selfish one or one he couldn’t accomplish—and remarkably, he never seemed to make any enemies, either. Even those who despised his seeming perfection at first were drawn to his pure, sympathetic character, and could not help but admire him a little.
Verdancio always seemed to glow with a shade of pale chartreuse. Though they knew it was impossible, that it had to be just a slightly odd hue of olive brown, everyone who saw him swore that his hair appeared almost yellow-green in the sunlight, and it couldn’t simply be a hallucination since everybody seemed to be having it. His eyes, too, were a beautiful jade color, and whatever color he wore—no matter whether it was yellow, tan, or even red—always seemed to have a little green in it somehow. Nobody could say exactly how that was, but the best guess anybody had was that it was supernatural—which probably wasn’t a bad one.
Verdancio’s hometown, a small one named Aranyam, was located at the bottom of a dark chasm, the only light in which coming from a pair of pure-white eagles circling around far above. The contrast of their plumage against the otherwise total darkness was just enough to see by, but not enough to see color. It was that way, Verdancio had been told, so that the village could be watched for everyone’s protection. But that explanation had never made any sense to him… why, then, did the eagles sometimes fly away, leaving the village in total darkness for a few days until they came back? Why were their gazes so piercing? And why was everyone trapped at the bottom of an endless black void in the first place?
Verdancio’s parents refused to answer any of his questions. It was for his own good, they told him; one day, he would understand. For now, he would simply have to put up with it, since, after all, even if it didn’t end in this lifetime, it was bound to end in the next.
That wasn’t good enough for Verdancio, though. Innocent as he was, he wasn’t without curiosity, and he knew somehow that something wasn’t quite right, though he had no idea what it was. One day, after studying the movements of the eagles for several years, he realized that after flying in circles exactly 1,080 times, they had to come down onto the rooftops to rest for just an instant. It was always when no one was out, and only for an instant, but it was enough. The first chance he got, Verdancio cautiously climbed onto one of the roofs, staying as still as possible, and took a leap of faith through the darkness. He knew there was a great chance he would miss, but somehow he managed to seize one of the eagles’ legs, and quickly took the other as well. Though it tried to throw him back down, he held fast, and it began to circle the village again uncertainly, unsure of what to do. Its companion gave a furious screech, and both began to spin like some kind of cyclone in hopes of tossing him away. But he never let go, and eventually, both ended up flying him out of the chasm and into the open sky.
The sky was unlike anything Verdancio had ever imagined. Unlike the blackness all around and above the chasm, it was bright and detailed, and seemed to have a lot more depth; suddenly, it occurred to him that the sky he’d known all his life was only an illusion, and something darker than that was behind it. At that moment, he felt a sudden surge of identity he’d never known before, and his green aura appeared for the first time. That was something that seemed to be common to several of the members of the Resistance in the Vibhrama era—as soon as they came to the realization that there was something more to reality than just perception, they seemed to take on a strong, unique hue of their own. It was something granted to them by Saralya, meant to provide a visual reminder that they stood apart from all the rest.
But at the moment Verdancio got his green aura, he also got something none of the others did—a magnificent halberd that seemed to be made out of emerald, as hard and as sharp as truth itself. When the eagles stopped to rest, Verdancio immediately turned at them in anger, and the emerald halberd spontaneously formed in his hand as if out of a quivering reflection, startling them greatly. The eagles spread their wings and bowed, knowing that in keeping this boy in illusion they had defied the will of the deva and now it was only right they be destroyed, but Verdancio had mercy on them, and instead reached out his hand and stroked one on the crown. It looked at him in surprise, but he simply smiled. Soon after, they were carrying him willingly in the direction he pointed, rather than the one they originally intended.
Scarlet shone a sort of maroonish-red; Aureate looked to be a golden yellow-orange; Caeruleus was a sort of light blue; Kageyasu’s aura was an inky black. Verdancio rescued each of them from their respective illusions—Scarlet from a sealed room at the bottom of the ocean, slowly but surely leaking one drop at a time, Aureate from a small plateau thousands of feet in the air, the edges of which seemed to be gradually crumbling, Caeruleus from a peculiar nightmare in which he thought he had to hold a door closed for eternity lest an army of hundreds come in and destroy his city, and Kageyasu from a spot far out at sea where he had the ability to walk on water but was gradually losing it. All of them were just illusions, of course, but Vibhrama’s illusions were always frighteningly lifelike—enough that no matter how hard one tried to deny them, they never seemed to go away. Only when Verdancio leapt in and slashed through the ocean, or the sky, or the wall with his emerald halberd and caused it to fall away like a destroyed stage background could they be broken, leaving a shattered and incoherent reality behind that would never really heal. Verdancio knew how destructive his own power was, and it weighed heavily on him, but even so, he always continued on.
Vibhrama and his supporters tried many clever schemes in the attempt to thwart the Resistance. Once, Vibhrama tried discreetly changing their surroundings while the Resistance members were resting to disorient them. However, Verdancio knew that his halberd had a different feel to it when travelling through an illusion, and carved straight through it. Another time, Vibhrama tried to camouflage the halberd, which left the group baffled for almost two days. However, Verdancio’s unfailing calm kept the group steady, and eventually they came up with the idea of Scarlet calling up the deva Angalajua to appear and shine light on the area—soon enough, the outline of the halberd was obvious.
Even when Vibhrama created illusory copies of a couple of the other Resistance members, trying to make Verdancio believe that they had always been illusions and in reality, he was the one going against the natural order of things, Verdancio was not shaken. Their disappointment at not being real and their concern that Vibhrama was simply using them to try and make him hack the world into splinters with his halberd seemed genuine enough, and almost made him tear up, but eventually he realized that the logic of it simply didn’t make sense and slashed them apart with his halberd. Could Vibhrama create the feeling he’d had when he’d received his aura? No, it wasn’t possible—as unusual as they were for him at the time, those feelings were his own, and he had to stand firm in his beliefs. The illusions diffused away, and Vibhrama was, rightfully, alarmed.
Finally, when Vibhrama was almost defeated and Verdancio had him cornered, he tried to bite the emerald halberd in two, but instead, his jaw sustained the dent. Furious, he swallowed it in an attempt to absorb its powers, and emerald-like points replaced his claws and spines. Some of Verdancio’s companions flinched, but Verdancio himself simply stood there in utter confidence and smiled. Though Vibhrama tried directly to pierce him with the power of his own weapon, it did nothing to him in the least, and no matter what the great illusion-maker tried, more of him only seemed to turn to emerald until he was little more than a sculpture of his former self. Finally, Saralya herself appeared—a great, white naga with a long tail, two powerful rear legs, and blunted spikes all along her back—and creating sharpened auras of light around all the blunted points of her body, tore the statue apart; he split so intensely that he simply seemed to vaporize, leaving only a peaceful chartreuse sunset.
When the two white eagles let him down back in Aranyam, the Mahadevi appeared one last time.
“Well done,” she praised. “You have been of great use… now I can finally bring this poor world to an end.”
“Of course. The beast of illusion may be gone, but at this point, the world seems too fragmented to recover. The natural thing is to start it over.”
Verdancio was appalled. He and the Resistance had persevered through to protect reality until the last, and yet thanks to his wonderful halberd that tossed broken splinters of illusion into the gashes it created in reality, it would all be for nothing. He would have his pride and his confidence, as always, but even those were melting away as the sky was starting to turn to a patchwork of different colors, grays, leaves, and rocks… though there were only a few seconds until the next era and the next life, they would unfortunately be tainted with the thought that none of the things he fought for would last.
…Except for truth.